Will It Stay? Chattel vs. Fixture

With flat-panel TVs mounted on walls, and stainless steel appliances strategically used to stage homes, buyers are including more chattels and fixtures in their offers to purchase these days.

(Examples of chattels: fridge, stove, microwave, Fixtures: Built-in dishwasher, exhaust fan, faucet and hardware.)

Is it safe to assume that if a fixture is not listed as an exclusion in the purchase agreement, then it's automatically included with the property?  Not always! I’ll give you an example.

My wife and I recently bought an LCD TV and wall mount bracket to hang it on. Let’s say our home was for sale and we accepted an offer. The prospective buyers are very excited about having my TV all ready for them when they move in; they assume it is permanently attached and so comes with the house.

However, while my wall mount is attached to the home, and thus considered a fixture, my TV is attached to hooks that hang from the mounting bracket - making it a chattel.

As such, their realtor should specifically list the TV in the “Chattels Included” section of the offer.

Legal Fight over Chattel


If the buyers move in and see my TV is gone, they’re on the horn with their lawyer and the legal fees for both parties start to rack up quickly.

I'm sure after a lengthy explanation, a few photographs and a lot of added stress, the buyer's would realize that the TV was not included and the deal would close anyway.

As the seller, I'm left with a larger legal bill and an upset buyer. The buyers are left with having to purchase a TV they thought they’d already bought with the house!

The point is: If you want something in your new home, include it. If you're not sure, include it.  If there's any doubt, include it.

It may seem odd to put a storage shed, central air conditioning, or even a garage door opener as inclusions - but full disclosure for both parties will ensure everyone knows what stays and what goes.

The end result should be a smooth transaction where both buyer and seller get what they expect.

Ray Petro is a sales representative with CENTURY 21 Professional Group Inc. based in Brantford, ON.

 

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10 Comments
September 10, 2009
3:54 PM

Good Posting Ray. I always include a clause in the agreement which speaks to both the chattels and fixtures, and I include most of the "questionables" which form part of the property. Central Air, Central Vac, Fireplace Screen and Doors, etc. I present the offer and point out to the Sellers that if they need a tool to take it away, then it is a fixture and it stays, unless otherwise excluded in the agreement. (if it is glued down, screwed down, or nailed down, it stays). This has the tendancy to make both parties reflect and understand what is and what is not included. I always note to the sellers that the intention is not to "nickel and dime" them, but to make sure that both parties are of the same mind.

September 12, 2009
2:44 PM

What about art which is screwed into a wall? A designer wall-mounted coat rack, or a piece of art from overseas mounted by virtue of being screwed directly into the wall and not using hinges or hooks? When do we start to look at the intention of the homeowner? I have a lovely modernist coat rack mounted to the wall, and there's not a chance I'm leaving it there....

 

 

 

September 14, 2009
7:22 AM

Hi, Lila,

I cannot see your coat rack, but if it hangs on a wall mount, then the rack itself is a chattel (and the mount bracket is the fixture). If the rack is screwed directly into the wall, then it is a fixture.

You and your real estate sales representative need to make sure that its exclusion is stated in the listing agreement as well as written up as such in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. You may find it agreeable to replace the excluded coat rack with another fixture, should the buyers want that.

October 22, 2009
3:38 PM

Hi,
just wanted to know if vacu-flo and attachments and water softener (systems itself) is a chattels or fixtures? Just like you TV your wall mount is attached to the home. The built in system of hoses and outlets for Central vacuum and water softener is considered fixtures, while the canister, accessories, water softener system are generally considered chattels. Aren't these appliances are removable? It's not glued down, screwed down, or nailed down. These appliances is not stated in the signed purchase contract like the other chattels such as stove, frigde, dishwasher, curtains, ects..
I dont know what to think anymore but I know those are for my personal uses and dont consider them a fixtures. Even if the purchase put them down in the contract I would have cross it out. They waited at least 15 days to advised us vacu-flo, attachments and water softener is missing. I am so confused,frustrated and i believed Im being bully. I feels bad for the purchasers however their real Estate should advised them.Your option is greatly appreciate...
Thank you

February 19, 2010
2:01 PM

We just sold our house. We included all "light" fixtures with the house. Just today, we received a letter from the purchaser's lawyer that there are speakers in the basement wall that were taken out and a hole is now there. Firstly, the letter states wall and the speakers are actually in the ceiling. Secondly, they stated that there is a hole in the wall. Actually, they have not been taken out so there is no hole, as of yet.

But to my point, the purchaser did not specify that the speakers are to be included in the offer. They presumed that it is a fixture but only "light fixtures" were included. We stated that the full entertainment system does not stay, and that includes the speaker coming out of the ceiling.

March 6, 2010
12:10 AM

If you are aware that "The prospective buyers are very excited about having my TV all ready for them when they move in ... " and you sell them the house and take the television you have committed, at the very least, a highly unethical act. In similar situation courts have held such a false tacit acknowledgment to constitute fraud and several states have specific statutes that would make it so. In such cases the contention that a reasonable buyer should have known does not offer you a defense as it might had you not explicitly known of their assumption. The fact that many television wall mounts are bolted to both the wall and the television, which makes the TV's fixtures, further negates this defense. All legalities aside it is an act of dishonesty for any individual and a violation of ethics for a Realtor.

May 25, 2010
10:11 PM

I am in a situation where the buyer insists that the wall mount is a fixture and must stay. So I leave the wall mount and lift off my TV with the brackets loctite screwed into it. Now the buyer has a wall mount with no brackets, which is basically useless and I have a TV with brackets that are permanently screwed into it with no matching wall mount. Yay, now we both lose because the buyer is being a stickler about a $150 wall mount in a $300K house.

September 17, 2010
2:10 PM

My wife and I made an offer to purchase a month ago, closes in a couple weeks. In the back yard there is a chain link fenced dog pen on a concrete slab. Just as you would assume that the fencing surrounding a yard is included, we assumed this fencing would be included. We went back to the house to take some measurements and the tenants living there indicated that they would be removing the pen when they leave. What are the laws about fencing and outdoor components that are in the ground or bolted to a concrete slab?

April 3, 2012
8:39 AM

Hello,

If an office has book shelves that are attached by brackets to the wall are they included? Also we bought a house that the person as oversized art with lights screwed in above it. Do the lights stay and if not are they responsible for filling the holes and touching up the paint?
Thanks
R

April 3, 2012
11:45 AM

As a REALTOR I was always told that if anything requires a tool to be removed it was considered a fixture and thus must stay. All other chattels have to be included in the purchase and sale agreement. However we see situations of assumptions many times. In the days of handwritten agreements I was taught "a nickels worth of ink saves thousands of dollars" It is always best as buyers to state what you want and if a seller wants to exclude something such as book shelves or artwork, it should be in the listing agreement as well as in the purchase and sale agreement.

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